the family photograph / by Leah Zawadzki

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right to left--my grandmother's mother, her aunt, her mother's parents.  my great great grandparents. this photo was taken over 100 years ago.

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left--my grandmother's mother and aunt and their children. my grandmother sits on her mother's lap as a baby. right--my grandmother as a teenager and her friend.  

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left--my grandmother holding her mother, standing next to her sister. right--my grandmother and her sisters and friends.  

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my grandfather and my grandmother.

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can you find my grandmother?  the beautiful on in the lower middle (they are all beautiful).  her mother sits behind her. my mother to the right of my great grandmother.  and that's my grandpa, the crazy one top right.

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my grandfather and grandmother.

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my parents with my grandparents when i was a girl.  this is how they looked when i was little.  my parents much younger then i am now--my grandparents are closer to my age.

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group photo taken from this past june.  amazing to think all these people are here and came together as a result of one woman, pictured above.  my great grandmother.

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my grandparents in their appartment this last weekend.

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it's my grandmother's birthday today.  she is 85 years old.

to celebrate, i spent this last weekend with them. my grandmother and grandfather--happily married for 67 years.  i love them both so much i can barely stand it.  i am so grateful to have them.

i have been doing a ton of soul searching lately. i think it's my age--a mid life crisis of sorts. we sat visiting saturday night and my grandmother brought me photo after photo, and i poured over each and every one. the one that i couldn't stop looking at is the one taken over 100 years ago. a photograph of people i never met. a photograph of people, who when you think about it, were vital to my existance and who i am today. as i sat looking, studing and soaking it in, i wondered what their life was like. what were their hopes and dreams? could they even have imagined the impact they would have on future generations? would my great grandmother even have thought that over 70 people would get together to celebrate her family over 100 years later? all because she was she. and those people that got together--they are people i love more then anything, some of the most amazing people you could ever meet. and when i think of all those that came in between...the ones that have already come and gone, my heart grows even bigger.

sometimes when i get so wrapped up in this photography world i seem to forget why i am doing it.  why it's really so important. it's hard for me to get my head around that this isn't for me, it's just moving through me for future generations. and beyond photography, who i am today isn't just for me either. it is all such a small part in such a bigger picture. a picture that i can't fully see right now, just as my great grandmother couldn't have even imagined. life is precious, life is fleeting. i need to work everyday to slow down and make it the best that it can be, not just for me but for my kids.

happy 85 years grandma--your life and all you have brought to it is so beautiful. and you are so loved. xo